The Business Class Award Routes to Europe United Doesn’t Want You to Know About

The most natural thing in the world for a frequent flyer member to believe is that one can go to their airline’s website, type the city they’re starting from and where they want to go into the search box, and that website will return results showing all the ways they can travel.

Seasoned frequent flyers know that isn’t true at all — some airline partners may not appear on their program’s website at all, the search technology may not check all possible routings, and any number of other technical glitches may interfere — but there’s no reason why in modern times that should be true, or that a program’s 70 to 100 million members ought to be expected to know that it is true.

United shows more of its partners online than American’s or Delta’s does. But when they don’t show partner space, it can be a conscious decision (such as removing the ability to search for Singapore Airlines award space from the website) or it can be technical challenges getting in the way.

Brussels Airlines space has come and gone at various times from United.com.

And that’s especially important because flights to and from Brussels are one of the go-to routes for transatlantic award space using United or other Star Alliance miles. Availability can be good on both United and on Brussels Airlines, and with a Star Alliance hub in Brussels it’s possible to get beyond there to your final destination. It’s one of the more overlooked ways to travel.

United.com doesn’t show Shenzhen Airlines space — worth knowing, but not an impediment to most members for most searches.

They also do not show LOT Polish on their website. And that is a bigger deal than you might expect.

Fortunately you can search for award space on LOT Polish on the Aeroplan and the ANA award search websites. You can search for it on ExpertFlyer. And it’s supported (via Aeroplan and ANA searches) using the KVS Tool and AwardNexus.

LOT offers daily 787 service between Warsaw and Chicago, daily 787 seasonal service which drops to 4 days a week between Warsaw and Toronto, and daily 787 seasonal service which drops to 4 days a week between Warsaw and New York JFK.

While not world-beating, they’ve got a new fully flat business class on their 787 (much better than the relic they had been operating previously) so certainly something worth flying.

Here’s availability for 2 passengers, Warsaw-Chicago, during the first 28 days in October (randomly chosen month).

Here’s the first 28 days in October for New York JFK – Warsaw and return, 2 passengers in business class.

And here’s the first 26 days of October for Toronto – Warsaw and return. Availability does occasionally exist, but for this route is far from outstanding.


The point here is — just because it can’t be found on the United.com website doesn’t mean it isn’t available.

While business class to Europe using United miles has gotten more expensive especially when redeeming for partner travel, it’s not out of whack with the industry when you consider there aren’t any fuel surcharges.

If you have American Express Membership Rewards points you can transfer to Aeroplan and pay just 45,000 miles each way for travel between the North America and ‘Europe 1.’ Poland and points East within Europe are part of Europe 1.

And while Aeroplan adds fuel surcharges onto awards booked on some partners, they do not add them onto Brussels Airlines, Scandinavian, Swiss, Turkish, or United for transatlantic travel… and the surcharges on LOT are less than half what you would pay for travel on an airline like Lufthansa.

And remember that if you change your itinerary after departure of first flight, Aeroplan doesn’t collect increased fuel surcharges only their CAD$90 change fee. That means if you book United for your return trip and then change to LOT or Lufthansa after you’ve taken the departing flight, you won’t actually pay the fuel surcharges to do so.


About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Gary,

    If I want to fly Lax-Sin using united miles for end of August, where do I search and how much for milesaver J and F?

  2. Great article. Which airlines does aa.com not show? I have been looking for 3 biz class tickets from anywhere in se Asia back to USA and can’t find any saver level — sometime in second week of July.

  3. @Amt – the easier way to go is to explain which airlines AA.com DOES show! It shows Qantas, British Airways, Air Berlin, Finnair, Alaska, Hawaiian, Royal Jordanian, and US Airways. that’s it. Nothing on Cathay Pacific, JAL, Malaysia, Sri Lankan…

  4. @Michael – most partners are searchable on the United site, though for the ones I mention in this post that aren’t supported at United.com search the Air Canada Aeroplan or ANA websites.

    If you fly on partners, rather than United, it’s 80k each way in business and 130k each way in first.

  5. Brussels and LOT on ANA search tool? I’ve never seen them populate on a search. I did successfully book LOT tickets with ANA after finding space on Award Nexus and calling in, but even then it took 3 agents for them to figure out LOT was in Star Alliance.

  6. Gary

    Thanks for the response — so to redeem aa miles on cathay pacific flights back to the us — what website do I search for those flights and how do I know if they are saver levels or not? Thanks a bunch!

  7. Does flying Turkish to cities in Europe 1 zone result in Europe 1 or 2 mileage level? Thanks

  8. @Amit – you can search for Cathay seats at BA.com, Qantas, and JAL websites and if the seats appear it is only saver space that is available to partners.

  9. I guess you are right; some carriers just don’t want you to know. And it gets worse: If domestic major shows a few flights from foreign partner “A,” do not assume that ALL of foreign partner “A’s” options are displayed. Even worse is that the network/partnership arrangements do not always include all routes flown by the partner airline – some are NOT covered under alliance agreements. Sometimes the reasons are obvious, as when the domestic major offers service on the same route; of course they want to fill seats on their own metal! In other cases, the reasons are not clear.
    My advice is to search your holder of points/miles first, then proceed to searching the foreign partners’ websites. Then, with comprehensive list in-hand, try to make that horrible call. As many advocate, if you don’t like the answer, have a ‘fone failure’ and try again. no matter how one goes about booking award space, the process is not easy and that is a shame! “We’ll reward you for your loyalty to our airline, but we will NOT make it easy. Using, literally hiring, an Award Travel Consultant may – or may not be a smart move. Some are excellent and some are – ahem, less so. The truly honest consultants will respond to your inquiry within hours, reporting that they can help you – and stating their price. The honest folks will also quickly advise if they simply cannot be of assistance – and that IS a fair response. The not-so-honest ones will demand major fees even before considering your wishes. Be careful!! In the end, the good, honest folks are worth their weight in gold. Nuff said.

  10. Does anyone know of any workarounds to see SQ availability for MP? I can log into the KF site, but that has significantly different inventory. Do the Aeroplan or ANA sites show similar inventory that should be available to UA, or are they “starblocking” SQ?

  11. Hi can you list which airlines fly London/new York and the best way to access them using points, and minimising the fuel surcharges? Eg fly united metal but use krisflyer points, or never use BA points for a BA flight.
    Also, which airlines release 4 seats in premium cabins.

  12. @gary
    cant you use LH.com to search for bruss award space? or why not please?
    thanks

    also..IAD is the only USA star alliance airpory which bruss serves?

  13. I’m a newbie
    I have Amex pts 200,00
    Marriott points 150,000
    Delta points 46,000

    Want to plan a trip for 2 from ft lauderdale or Miami to
    Grand Canyon or open to suggestions in th us
    Prefer higher end trips…no roughing it turned 60

    How can I use some of the above and also cash ?

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